Background: Although the automobile air bag is a safety device used to protect drivers from death and moderate-to-severe injury, recently it also has been reported to be associated with some ophthalmic injuries. The authors have encountered a case in which a normal air bag may have caused a driver's corneal endothelial cell loss. In this study, the authors evaluate corneal endothelial cell loss caused by several types of air bags in the hope that air bag technology may be improved.
Methods: The authors performed impact tests with whole pig eyes fixed in a crash test dummy, using five different types of air bags. The area of damaged corneal endothelial cell was analyzed quantitatively.
Results: The authors found that corneal endothelial cell loss was correlated with the inflator power of the air bag but not with its weight.
Conclusion: Although greater inflator power is needed for rapid air bag expansion, the effect on the eye should be considered in further refining this device. There may be greater latitude in the selection of air bag material. The authors believe their technique is applicable to the assessment of many air bag or passenger variables.